"It's been such a goal for so long, since I was little, to have a Christmas album, and I finally have a Christmas EP," Brooke tells PEOPLE
This holiday season, you can find Ally Brooke under the tree.
The former Fifth Harmony member released her debut holiday EP Under the Tree on Friday, a four-song project featuring three festive classics and its original pop title track, which finds Brooke putting a cheeky spin on the concept of gift-giving.
"You can find me under the tree / I'll be waitin' on Christmas Eve / Baby, unwrap me, unwrap me, unwrap me / You'll unwrap me, unwrap me right under the tree," sings the pop star, 30, on its chorus.
The body of work finds Brooke connecting with her inner Christmas spirit and embracing a mature sound as fans anticipate her long-awaited debut album. More than five years after launching into her solo career, the "Low Key" musician introduced fans to the upcoming pop project in September with its upbeat lead single, "Gone to Bed," released under her new deal with Snafu Records.
Brooke's signing to the label has also brought a familiar figure back into her life, A&R representative Joey Arbagey, who worked alongside Fifth Harmony as they notched massive hit singles like "Worth It" and "Work from Home." Before now, according to the singer, Arbagey was "the missing piece" of her creative team — so listeners should get excited about what's to come.
PEOPLE recently caught up with Brooke to discuss Under the Tree, holiday memories, her upcoming debut album and everything fans want to know about the recently sparked Fifth Harmony reunion rumors.
How does it feel to share your first collection of holiday music, Under the Tree?
I'm just overjoyed. It's been such a goal for so long, since I was little, to have a Christmas album, and I finally have a Christmas EP. Me and my family just love the holidays, and it's so meaningful for me. I mean, it's my favorite time of the year, so to have a Christmas EP after all the time that has passed, it's magical, it really is.
What are your memories of listening to Christmas music with family growing up?
We played it nonstop, nonstop, nonstop. At the table, wrapping Christmas presents, being in the car or going to visit family member, I just have such a recollection of that and the magical feeling.
The classic songs that are on the EP — “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” “White Christmas” and “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” — were any of those staples in your family's house? Why did you choose those ones?
Yeah, they all were. Honestly, it was so hard to narrow down what I wanted. My A&R Joey actually helped me to narrow down because I love all of them. I would do a whole album with 100 records on there, but he helped me narrow them down, and these are just some of my household favorites that we would hear during the holidays.
You've been releasing solo music for a little over five years now, but this EP is technically your first-ever project. Why did you want to share Under the Tree with fans before your long-awaited debut album?
It began with just one record that we were going to put out for the holidays since I love the holidays so much. But we thought, “Well, what if it was an EP?” We thought large, we made it happen, and it was amazing. I really just felt now is the time, and I just love Christmas so much that I couldn't wait to release something.
The original song “Under the Tree” is so much fun. It puts a little bit of a sexy spin on the usual subject matter of a festive song. What inspired that track, and how'd it come together?
For me, it's really cute. It's really fun. I didn't write it — there are these fantastic writers that wrote it. I just heard it and was like, "Oh my gosh, it's so cute. Let me record it." But I love it because it's really upbeat and fun, and it's saying 'I'm under the tree, I'm your gift,' so I love that.
You’ve previously spoken about how it was hard to sing more risqué lyrics in Fifth Harmony because of your personal values, so what's made you confident to sing cheeky lines like “Unwrap me, unwrap me”?
I don't know. I think time and age have helped me just to be more open. For me, it's all about personal interpretation, whatever the listener wants and how they interpret it. I love universal subjects, so I try to make things as universal as possible so that way it can cater to whatever you want.
You recently dropped “Gone to Bed,” the first single from your upcoming album. How has it felt to see fans react to that song?
It's been amazing. I took about a year off for myself for my mental health. I really just found a lot of self-discovery. I sifted through what I wanted in my life and who I wanted in my life, and I put together a team for myself who I just feel so confident in — who I love, who love me, who believe in me. I believe in them, and I recently reconnected with Joey, who was Fifth Harmony's former A&R, and he was the missing piece that I needed.
Between him and all of my team, I just felt the timing was right to finally release something. So, I released “Gone to Bed,” and as soon as I heard it, I loved it. I fell in love with the concept and the music and the lyrics. I felt it was very me, and it was what I wanted to represent me. Having fans love it is just really fantastic.
Is the album finished? How does “Gone to Bed” represent the rest of the record?
No, it's not. I'm in the early stages of recording, but it'll definitely fit the vibe and the theme, so you'll hear more influences of “Gone to Bed” in my future records.
Is there anything else you can share about what fans can expect from this album?
You could expect more pop for sure. I was doing Latin, but I'm more focused on English and pop, but who knows? Maybe there'll be some Latin elements to it. I'd love to have some really in-depth features. I think that will be really fun, so you can expect a mixture of sounds and collaborators.
Recently, you caused a little conversation online after discussing Fifth Harmony reunion rumors in an interview. When you posted a clarification about what you meant afterward, you said, “Some beautiful friendships and relationships are slowly reuniting in a healing and empowering way.” Can you share anything about what’s been going on behind-the-scenes in your friendships with the other members?
Yeah, so there have been some healing relationships. I actually reunited with Dinah [Jane] recently, and that was amazing. I want to reunite with some of the others, but that's happening inch by inch, and we're having different discussions about possible Fifth Harmony adventures ahead. But that's all I can say. It's really amazing that we're able to reunite with each other and build those relationships again.
Now that Under the Tree is out, what do you hope fans take away from this project?
Honestly, it might sound cheesy, but I really just hope that they feel my heart through it and that they get that Christmas feeling in them. That's all that I want.
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